What’s the thing that makes us at least mildly insufferable to anyone who shares living space with us, be they family, roommates or romantic partners, yet we cannot change as it is a fundamental and immutable part of who we are? Is it insisting on everyone composting even though we can see it slowly destroy our relationships? Is it sleepwalking? This is honesty hour. Please be kind; we know, we know already. Share your secret/not-so-secret shame in the comments!
Vanessa: I’m Sorry My Hair Is All Over The Bathroom Floor
“You’re one of those girls, aren’t you,” an ex once said to me knowingly, as I shook my long wavy hair out of my face in what I hoped was a sexy and alluring way and shed about 74 pieces all over her bedroom floor. She wasn’t being flirty, that ex of mine. She was talking about my hair, and how it is long, and how it falls out of my head a lot, and how I am “one of those girls” who shed everywhere. And she was right! I do shed everywhere! I can’t help it! Sometimes I comb my hair and like, 400 pieces fall out, and I try to pick them all up off the floor but I miss 5%, which is a small percentage but is still like, 20 hairs, and I understand people are (weirdly?!?!) grossed out by hair, and I AM SORRY!
I don’t live with my current girlfriend, but I spend a lot of time at her house, and I try really hard to be a great considerate girlfriend guest, but still her housemate has had to gently ask me 15+ times to remove some of my hair off the bathroom / kitchen / living room floor. No matter how vigilant I am, there my hair is. I think I do a pretty decent job of removing it from the drain post-showers, because I know that particularly disgusts people (and I actually get that, because while dry hair is not that gross to me, wet clumps of hair that have caught soap and dead skin and goddess knows what else while in the drain and then have to be pulled out by your bare fingertips and look like slimy dead animals are truly objectively disgusting, that we can all agree on) but the hair wants what the hair wants. And my hair wants to be everywhere. Yes, that is my hair on your counter / in your bathtub / under your pillow / probably in your mouth. I’m sorry I’m like this. I’ll take out the compost and make dinner and do the dishes and unload the dishwasher and I’ll even take the notes at our house meeting and call Comcast when they inevitably start ripping us off. I love you, please don’t be mad about my hair. It loves you too.
Creatrix Tiara: Leaving Glitter/Threads/Fluff/Glue Everywhere, Probably
I messaged my ex-boyfriend/current best friend asking him about this since we lived together for about 3-4 years and that was word-for-word his response. Very soon after we started living together was when I got into burlesque, and I only had half the bedroom floor to work with most times, so that’s a fair assessment. Hell, I live alone now and my bedroom floor is still covered in confetti from the Australian marriage equality postal vote announcement, so clearly that habit hasn’t gone away.
Stef: Disappearing Act
My apartment is essentially a home for my cat and a bunch of my stuff; I work around 80 hours a week at my regular job (give or take) and usually only come home to crash. I’m not the tidiest person, and if I’m already tired from work my level of fucks has a tendency to dip dangerously low. I currently live with a wonderful and considerate human being, and when one of us is neglecting something that needs to get done around the house, the other one generally will pick up the slack without needing to be asked. This has been an issue in previous apartments however – I’ve lived with a couple of people who were annoyed that I wasn’t around enough to participate in the household (or whatever). Personally, I feel like as long as I’m not around to create a mess, I’m doing you a favor. The other thing is that when I’m actually home, I need a lot of alone time. I’m in my room with the door shut more often than not. It’s nothing personal, I just need to unwind and watch Teen Mom sometimes. You can still help yourself to some of the soup I made!
Alaina: I Can’t Pay Rent On Time
LISTEN. I know who I am. Which is why I take out too much money in student loans and pay my rent twice a year in large lump sums. When I live with people, they don’t want to me to do that. And when I’m forced to pay rent month by month, I almost always pay it late. I’m not good at month to month money management!
Also, I probably won’t talk to you. I hate small talk and when I have housemates spend 90% of my time in my room to avoid it, even listening silently from my room for a moment when the halls are silent so I can go the bathroom.
Mey: I Need You to Pay Attention to Me
I’m needy. I’m high maintenance. I like being around people because I like paying attention to them and I like them paying attention to me. If we’re gonna be roommates, we’re not gonna be the type who each go off into their bedrooms and never see each other. We’re going to spend LOTS of time together. I love cooking for people, watching movies with people, cuddling on the couch, hosting parties, asking how I look, spilling my emotions and just about any other activity that involves the people near me paying attention to me. I’m an extrovert and I love talking about feelings and being physically close with people, so if you’re the person I see the most, I’m going to try to do all those things with you.
A.E. Osworth: “Secret Dirt”
When I talk to other human people, I describe myself as “very clean” or “extremely neat.” And when you visit my apartment, this will appear to be true. I have what one friend has described as “an adult’s apartment.” At least, at first glance I do. My wife, however, knows better. Because she has to exist in a space with me, which means she occasionally opens the closets. Or my secretary desk. Or, like, turns my desk chair around and sees that it is covered in computer equipment and clothing. In plain sight, everything has a home. As soon as I can close the door on something and it is out of sight, however, I will smash things together on a shelf and not fold them. I will leave things in the refrigerator WAY past their expiration date. My wife calls this all “secret dirt.” I imagine I am insufferable. If you’re reading this, honey, thank you for staying married to me when an empty cider can fell between the bedside table and the wall, and I left it there for a month because I couldn’t see it and forgot about it.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya: Always Home
Hello! It’s me! I’m always here! Look, I try not to get in people’s way or all up in their business, but because I work from home, I’m pretty much always… home. And sometimes that means I’m on the phone for work or watching television for work, and I’ve only ever lived in small apartments and have never had a private office space, so I know that it probably gets annoying sometimes. Everyone always prefers a roommate who’s never around. Hell, I prefer roommates who are never around. Because I love to have the place to myself when I’m home… all day! I think it was even hard for my girlfriend to get used to in the beginning of our relationship, because it meant that she was literally never ever alone when at home and, hey, who doesn’t enjoy a tiny bit of alone time now and then?
Heather Hogan: Are You Supposed To Be Working Too?
I’m not a person who can sit still and relax if there’s stuff that needs to be done. Dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, dusting, clutter. When there’s anything that needs cleaning or tidying in my house, I observe it and file it away in a mental list and the absolute second I am finished working or the second I wake up or the second we got home from whatever obligation, I pounce on it with unrelenting focus.
When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought was that the dishes needed to be unloaded from the dishwasher that ran during the night, that there were three spots on the living room hardwoods from the snow and salt we tracked in yesterday, that the cat trees needed to be vacuumed, that the air filter in the cats’ room needed to be changed, and that the upstairs bathroom needed to be cleaned. I vaulted out of bed, and did it. Stacy woke up and groggily said, “I’ll do X things” and I was like “No, I’ve got it” because I didn’t want to wait for her to do it because I can’t sit down and enjoy reading my book or playing my video game if it’s not done, so the sooner the better, and I also didn’t want her to have to chase me out of bed at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday after working until 2am every night last week. So she’s stuck either coming home from a 12-hour workday and hour-long train commute to unload the dishes in the middle of the night so I don’t have to or feeling guilty that I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom before she got out of bed.
Also, when we have company over, I cannot, like, put the dishes in the sink and say, “We’ll clean this up tomorrow” and go to bed. I mean, I could do that, but I would just lie awake and stare at the ceiling and think about how the stuff in our house is not in the correct place. Stacy and I are both introverts and I know after an evening of socializing she would really prefer to get inside a blanket fort with a cat and watch Netflix but how can she do what she needs and also what I need, which is to have everything in its place? I don’t like clutter! I do not like it! It makes me feel like I’m somewhere on the scale between “anxious” and “fire ants crawling all over my brain.”
So, uh, I guess the short answer is: I micromanage my space and have a hard time relaxing?
Carmen: Just So You Know, I’m Never Going to Stop Talking
Oh this one is EASY. I talk. I mean, sunrise to sunset, I talk. I’m exhausting. I process my feelings out loud, I process almost every thought out loud, I talk back to the television. If something’s funny, I am going to laugh and that laughter will probably reverberate off the walls. Sound is how I make sense of the world around me. Loud is my love language.
Once when I was about seven or eight years old, my mom complained to my grandmother that by the time Monday morning came around for me to go back to school after the weekend, her ears hurt. Yeeeaah, it was pretty bad. But, I want to say something in defense of myself!
I am so much better about it now. Living with roommates as an adult taught me the importance of respecting other people’s quiet time and personal space. I’m not perfect, but if I realize that you need your own space, I’ll pull back. I’ll be buzzing with energy I can’t let free, but I will hold back. It’s the mature thing to do (or so I have been told).
Molly Priddy: Overlooking Messes
I’d say I’m usually OK to live with, except I’ve had roommates and girlfriends and even a wife tell me this one thing: My threshold for mess is higher than that for most people. If my house is messy, like there’s a collection of random shit on the kitchen table and my office desk is cluttered and the bathroom sink needs cleaning, I’ll stop seeing it as mess and just sort of register it as How My House Is Now. I eventually hit capacity — when it shifts from “messy” to “dirty” — and clean everything up, but usually my threshold is just higher than other people’s.
Valerie Anne: Who I Am As A Person I Guess
Living in New York for my entire adult life means I’ve lived with many, many strangers, but I actually have a pretty good track record, as far as I know. Two of my roommates only moved out to move in with their now-husbands, and one left because she was moving out of state. It’s never been a dramatic “I can’t live with you” type of deal. So I’ve never asked anyone, but if I had to guess, I’d say my answer is a combination of Molly’s and part of Stef’s; my threshold for messy is a lot higher than some people’s and when I’m at my apartment, I don’t want to have to make small talk. Some of my roommates have been happy to live our parallel lives that never intersect except for a friendly hello in the rare instances we run into each other, some are relentless in trying to hang out and get increasingly frustrated when I postpone or dive into my room when I hear a key in the front door. It has nothing to do with my feelings about the actual roommate; I lived with a good friend of mine for a few years and I would still do that. Sometimes when I’m home I just want to be home and not “on.” And as for the mess thing… I don’t know how to fix that. I have to turn my mess-detector off most of the time because if I turn it on I can see ALL the mess, and next thing you know it’s 3am and I’m scrubbing the walls. But I try to keep the common spaces relatively neat (sans “my” chair in the living room, which is usually a heap of sweaters), I usually do my dishes in a timely manner, and I respond well to polite task assignment; so once a roommate learns that I wasn’t joking when I said that in the roommate interview, mess-related problems become a non-issue.
Natalie: I’m Messy… Sometimes
When I’m feeling in control of my life, my space is immaculate. Everything is in its place, the faint smell of a scentsy candle wafts through the air and there isn’t a speck of dirt or dust to be found. But when things start happening to me that aren’t within my power to change, things in my space start to get a little messy… much to the chagrin of whomever I might be living with at the time.
It’s less about my mood and more about reminding myself that in spite of whatever crazy thing happens at work or however 45 decides to upend my sense of safety and security and how those things affect my moods, I’m still in control of something. I can pick up the laundry I’ve dumped on the floor, I can dust off all the furniture, I can vacuum the floor…when it feels like I can’t control anything else in the world, I can control this space.
Erin: Home a Lot/Kitchen User
I think the things that are probably annoying about me as a roommate is 1) I work from home so I’m always there, and even though I tend to stay in my room rather than a common area I bet it’s like “can you just leave for one goddamn day,” 2) I make most of my meals so I’m in the kitchen a lot, which is sort of unavoidable tbh as a human being, and I know it’s irrational to get mad at someone for cooking meals at traditional eating times but sometimes you just do and I get that, and 3) I have people stay over which I know is not always some people’s favorite. Other than that I’m perfect.
Laura M: Dish Procrastinator
I am very comfortable leaving dishes in the sink for days on end. This has annoyed every roommate I’ve ever lived with, at some point. Sorry, everyone! It’s just not a priority. I realize this makes me a nightmare person to live with and I apologize.
KaeLyn: Consistently Leaves Hair in Drain
I shower like, not as often as some, but more than Science recommends and when I do, if you live with me, you know it. I always shed hair in the shower. It’s significantly better now that I have a huge undercut all the way around my head, but it still happens. Every time. It seems like I should probably be bald by now, but I’m not. Where all this hair is coming from, I truly don’t know. Anyway, I’m also profoundly near-sighted and I can’t see a damn thing when I’m in the shower, which means I can’t see the hair clump I leave in the drain and I forget to clean it 99% of the time. Waffle has 20/20 vision and is never pleased to see that I’ve taken my biweekly shower. “KAELYN, COME GET YOUR HAIR!!!”
Raquel: I Don’t Want To Talk To You
When I get home, I need like, at least two hours of decompression time: to sit alone, to bumble around the internet, to read, etc. I can’t stand small talk, or answering “how was your day?” and having to respond, until it’s at least dinnertime. I’ve lived with some of my very best friends, people I could spend hours talking to, and I’ve hurt our friendship because I’ll walk in the door and go straight to my room, and if they want to hang out immediately after work, I’ll almost always flake. I’m a much better friend again immediately after we’re no longer living together anymore. It’s weird, because if I don’t go home, I’m fine — happy to go to happy hour, or run errands, or go to the movies. But if I stop at home first, I immediately go into a zone where I just need s p a c e.
Reneice: I Am Allergic To Dishes
I hate doing the dishes. If Laura and I lived together I bet we’d accidentally grow the cure for cancer in our piles of avoided dishes in the sink. I think this is common for people who love to cook, we put in a ton of work making mouth-watering meals then want nothing to do with cleaning that up. I have better things to do like eat, watch netflix, pick lint balls off my socks, etc. I once had a roommate put a pot that I left in the sink before leaving for a two week vacation ON MY BED waiting for me when I got back. That’s how bad it’s been at times. Fortunately now I’m better about biting the bullet and getting them done before it’s a public health problem, but it’s still enough of an issue that I’d be hard to live with if you want a clean spoon without washing it yourself and aren’t willing to wait 48 hours.
Carolyn: Assumes You Have Died
I have a lower mess threshold than most people and a higher desire to handle messes, which could either be a negative or a plus, depending on how you think about it. But mostly, if someone I live with says they’ll be home at a certain time and they’re not I assume that they have died or something. I didn’t realize where the root of this was until a partner and I stayed with my parents for a week, and she was incredulous that if they left they’d say “we’ll be back in 44 minutes” and would be back in exactly 44 minutes. Everyone has their damage.
Laneia: Can’t Understand Why You Don’t Know Where That Goes
Judging by how frequently I have to talk about it, and how many eyerolls and groans are received when I do, I think the most annoying thing about living with me must be how I expect everyone to put things back exactly where I’ve decided they need to go, and then how frustrated I become when they don’t! But in my defense, I have to say that I spend a lot of time coming up with an extremely detailed and specific YET INTUITIVE, I believe, system for everything in our home because it’s a very small house and there are so very many of us here, and we have so very many things, which requires a lot of creativity and energy to organize! So when the tupperware cabinet is in disarray for the 723rd time, I kind of just want to put myself in a pool filled with jello jigglers and never speak to them again? Perfectly reasonable. Um, but maybe the most annoying thing about me is that I never do the dishes? Who’s to say really.
Riese: I Do Not Leave Home, Or Sometimes Even The Living Room
I usually adapt to the desires of whomever I’m living with, which’s a weird part of my personality I don’t entirely understand. I’m clean, but I can be cluttered… unless I’m living with a no-clutter person, and then I’ll sometimes become one too? I’ll wash my dishes immediately after every meal if you do, but if you don’t, I probably will wait ‘til the end of the day when all three meals of dishes have accumulated to do them. But my main deficiency as a hypothetical roommate for a hypothetical stranger is that I work from home, I even work out from home on my weird little stepper, I love home, I’m often-to-always-home, and I will also frequently have people over to my home rather than leave the home to see the people! I hate small talk, especially when it imposes itself upon time I’ve otherwise scheduled for work activities or really any activities. (In the past I have fully hidden from roommates and delayed meals for hours to avoid small talk.) You’ll get 300 channels and every on-demand streaming network available to mankind, but sometimes I’ll need to marathon a show for work and there I am in our living room watching the teevee with my snacks!
I love having a clean empty sink and having all the dishes available to me for when I want to and am ready to cook. And so I do them! I do mine and my roommates’ dishes. I do them all in one big fell swoop, and listen to music, and it’s fun! And then it’s done. And then… I don’t do dishes again for a week, and I get upset that there aren’t clean dishes and the sink is full, and I get upset with my roommates for not doing it, and at myself. And then finally I do them again and all is good! Rinse and repeat (sort-of-pun intended).
Rachel: Needs A Lot of Alone Time, Like Actually
I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal — “I need a lot of alone time too, you’re thinking.” “I stay in most nights! I’m an introvert! I love Harry Potter!” No, I am talking about a much more advanced and annoying phenomenon. I think this is a combination of my natural bent toward solitude and the fact that basically all of my most beloved people live far away from me and so my norm for social interaction is now virtual/phone, which means it can be engaged with on my own schedule and while multitasking and this is now my preferred/ideal/only social life. Regardless, the end result is that someone I live with walking up to me and starting a casual conversation can feel like an airhorn being blown into my face, and I will treat it like that, even though I know it’s a totally normal and even positive event?
“Alone time” includes the first hour or so after I wake up and sometimes the hour or so before going to bed in the evening, times during which we can pass by each other in the apartment like coworkers who have never learned each others’ names and now it’s been eight years but that is all. Even after that, if I’m doing something that in my head is designated a solitary activity, like making breakfast for myself or on the internet (I’m always on the internet), I will be kind of annoyed that you’re even in the room. This is obviously compounded by the fact that I work from home, especially if you are also in the home for a lot of the day or don’t work a 9 to 5. If I am sitting at the kitchen table working, and you come in the kitchen to make a sandwich and mention something about your day, I will be irrationally annoyed (even though, again, I know that is insane and not fair). If we live somewhere where I can have a private office space, that’s super great and helps a lot, but when I leave my office to get more coffee I will still consider myself encased in a bubble of personal office space, and you will, because you are a normal fucking person, not think of it that way and start talking to me. Honestly “alone time” is a totally unpredictable state of being, almost like a weather pattern, that begins and ends without warning during the day. We could have just had a great conversation for 20 minutes and then I will suddenly start thinking intently about something on my own, and bam, Alone Time is now in session, which you of course have no way of having any awareness of until I am suddenly weirdly distant and grumpy for no reason. If that sounds super annoying and impossible to navigate correctly, you’re right! It is! I should probably never live with anyone again.